​​Bushfire smoke can make some people’s existing health conditions worse.

You may be more sensitive to the health effects of bushfire smoke if you:

  • have a pre-existing heart or lung condition like asthma, emphysema and angina 
  • are pregnant
  • are aged over 65
  • are an infant or a young child 
  • have diabetes.

If you or your child is at higher risk, talk to your doctor now about how bushfire smoke might impact your health.

There are some helpful resources below to help you plan for managing your health and your family’s health when it is smoky.

    • Talk to your doctor about your Asthma Action Plan and know how to manage your asthma if you experience a flare-up due to bushfire smoke.
    • If your child has asthma, discuss their Asthma Action Plan with their doctor. Provide any updated plans to your child’s preschool, childcare centre or school.
    • Check that your and/or your child’s asthma reliever medication is up-to-date and stored with a spacer in an easy spot for you or a responsible adult to get quickly.
    • Know the warning signs of worsening asthma and when to seek medical advice or call Triple Zero (000).
    • Visit Sydney Children’s Hospital Network’s Aiming for Asthma Improvement in Children which includes a Good asthma control checklist.
    • For more information about asthma, visit Asthma Australia or speak to an asthma educator on 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462).

  • Bushfire smoke can worsen heart and lung conditions such as angina and emphysema (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

    This may lead to symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath or heart palpitations, and may increase the risk of heart attacks.

    Things you can do to protect your health:

    • talk to your doctor about managing your heart or lung condition when there is bushfire smoke, including completing any action plans you should follow
    • know the symptoms to watch out for and when to seek medical advice or call Triple Zero (000)
    • visit ​ Heart Foundation - Bushfire smoke and your health for further information.​
  • If you are pregnant, you may be more sensitive to the effects of smoke.

    Brief exposure to bushfire smoke during pregnancy is unlikely to affect you or your baby. If you are continuously exposed to smoke for more than one week, it may increase the risk of outcomes such as preterm birth, lower birth weight and developing gestational diabetes.

    Things you can do to protect you and your baby:

    • talk to your doctor or midwife about managing your health when there is bushfire smoke about
    • take steps to reduce your exposure to all sources of smoke during pregnancy
    • know what to do if the air quality is impacted by bushfire smoke in your area.
  • Children are more vulnerable to the effects of smoke because they spend more time outdoors engaged in physical activity, have developing airways and breathe more air relative to their body weight.

    It is important to reduce your child’s exposure to bushfire smoke.

    Children with lung conditions, such as asthma, may be more sensitive to smoke.

    Things you can do to protect your child:

    Childcare centres are also encouraged to monitor air quality for their local area and follow the health advice to protect children from bushfire smoke.

    Learn more on protecting yourself and others from bushfire smoke​.

    If children in your care display symptoms of asthma such as difficulty breathing, a wheeze or persistent cough, follow their written Asthma Action Plan. If they do not have a plan, provide asthma first aid, contact their parents or carers and monitor the child closely. Call Triple Zero (000) if symptoms are not improving or get worse. ​​​​

  • Bushfire smoke may affect blood glucose levels and make them harder to manage.

    During an emergency, your body processes glucose differently.

    Stress, changes in physical activity and the food you eat, may mean you need to adjust your medication during and after a bushfire emergency.

    Things you can do to protect your health:

    • talk to your doctor about managing your diabetes when there is bushfire smoke or during a bushfire
    • ask your doctor to help you prepare a diabetes management plan
    • visit National Diabetes Services Scheme (Diabetes Australia) for help preparing a diabetes emergency plan and kit.
Current as at: Friday 27 October 2023
Contact page owner: Environmental Health